The Nervous System: Neurons Nervous and Endocrine systems

The nervous and endocrine systems coordinate other systems of the body and they maintain homeostasis. The endocrine system produces chemical messengers that are transported through the circulatory system. It requires seconds, minutes or hours. The nervous system is more rapid, requiring only thousandths of a second.

Embryonic development
The nervous system originates from ectodermal tissue during embryonic development.

Neurons are cells that transfer stimuli to other cells. Structure of Neurons Cell Body - contains nucleus and organelles Dendrites - receive input Axon - conducts impulses away from the cell body Axon hillock - an enlarged region where an axon attaches to the cell body Synaptic terminal - Neurotransmitters are manufactured in the cell body but released from synaptic terminals. The neurotransmitters stimulate other neurons. Synapse - A synapse is the junction between the synaptic terminal and another cell. The other cell is called a postsynaptic cell. Nerves and Ganglia Axons and dendrites are bundled with axons or dendrites from other neurons to form nerves. Clusters of neuron cell bodies are called ganglia. Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems

The brain and spinal cord contain interneurons. Myelination Some neuroglia function to provide insulation for axons or dentrites.The nervous system can be divided into the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which includes everything else. metabolic assistance. Sensory neurons have a long dendrite and a short axon. If these insulating cells are located in the peripheral nervous system. They do so by wrapping around the long fibers. Motor neurons (efferent neurons) send information from interneurons to muscle or gland cells (effectors). they stimulate other neurons. The layer of insulation is referred to as a myelin sheath. Neuroglia Neuroglia (also called glia) are cells within the nervous system that are not neurons. they are called Schwann cells. physical support. The insulation properties come from myelin contained within the cells. These receive information and if they are sufficiently stimulated. Peripheral Nervous Central Nervous System System . and protection. Be aware that these structures have a different name if they are located within the central nervous system. Classes of Neurons Sensory neurons (afferent neurons) conduct sensory information toward the CNS. Terms that are used to describe structures found in both the CNS and PNS You will be responsible for learning the terms used for the peripheral nervous system in the table below. There are different kinds of neuroglia. and they provide neurons with insulation.

nerves ganglia Schwann cells tracts nuclei oligodendrocytes Membrane Potentials Membrane potentials were first demonstrated using the giant axons of a squid (1mm dia). The charge difference is measured in millivolts. Resting potential The sodium-potassium pump pumps out 3 sodium ions (Na+) for each 2 potassium ions (K+) pumped into the neuron. . The membrane is polarized. The charge difference prevents further leakage. An oscilloscope measured the electrical difference by placing one electrode outside the neuron and the other inside the neuron. Some K+ channels are open so K+ tends to leak out. This results in more potassium ions inside and more sodium ions on the outside. Unequal pumping (3 Na+ out to 2K+ in) results in more positive charge on the outside compared to the inside. This contributes to the negative charge inside.

the gates will open. This results in depolarization of the membrane in the area where the stimulation occurred. thus spreading the depolarization. allowing the polarity of the membrane to change as ions pass through the channel. They open when bound to specific ligands (molecules or ions) such as specific neurotransmitters. This type of depolarization is called "graded" because the amount of depolarization depends on the strength of the stimulus.Gated Channels The membrane contains channels that open or close. Propagation of an Action Potential As mentioned earlier. it will depolarize adjacent areas of membrane causing more Na+ gates to open. In the discussion on action potentials below. sodium gates open and then close slowly when the membrane is depolarized but remain closed when it is polarized. A slight depolarization will not cause the gates to open but if the depolarization is greater than a threshold value. sodium gates are closed. For example. . If the depolarization is sufficient. Ligand-gated channels are found in the synapses on postsynaptic cells. we will see that conduction of a signal along a neuron is due to depolarization that is independent of the strength of the stimulus. Graded Potentials Stimulation of a neuron causes sodium gates to open and the membrane becomes partially depolarized as sodium ions enter the neuron. When the sodium channel is open. Voltage-gated channels open when the membrane becomes depolarized. sodium can pass through. stimulation of the neuron causes Na+ gates open allowing Na+ to rush in. In a resting (polarized) neuron.

During an action potential. regenerating the action potential." The intensity of an action potentials does not diminish as depolarization spreads along an axon. Na+ channels close and K+ channels open causing K+ to flow out. . Action potentials are initiated when depolarization reaches a threshold level. Action potentials are "all or nothing. Depolarization continues to spread all the way to the action terminal where the axon joins another cell. The depolarization and repolarization events described above are called an action potential. In typical mammalian neurons. This process returns positive charge to the area just outside the membrane.Immediately after depolarization. thus restoring the resting polarity. the depolarization spreads to neighboring areas of the neuron. a depolarization to -55 mV produces an action potential.

In the diagram below. depolarization caused by the influx of sodium can be seen spreading to the right. Refractory Period The action potential cannot reverse its direction because membrane that has just been depolarized cannot be depolarized again until after a brief recovery (called refractory) period. the membrane is insensitive to stimulation.The sodium-potassium pump operates continuously to restore the ionic gradient. . During this period.

Sodium-potassium pumps require a substantial amount of energy to pump the ions. When sodium gates open and sodium ions rush in. the inside of the membrane is approximately -65 or -70 millivolts compared to the outside. Synaptic Potentials . The action potential spreads from node to node (saltatory conduction) causing it to spread faster. Most action potentials last a few milliseconds and there may be as many as several hundred action potentials per second. Example: squid axons are 500 microns dia. increasing the speed at which they spread. Gated channels are concentrated in this area and not in the area under the myelin sheath. The result is that the depolarization events spread farther. the inside temporarily becomes positively charged. restoring the negative charge. Initially.The diagram below shows the voltage difference across the membrane during an action potential. Potassium gates then open and potassium ions rush out. Saltatory Conduction and Neuron Diameter The gap between the Schwann cells in the myelin sheath is called a node of Ranvier. thus saving energy. Larger diameter axons conduct faster. Action potentials are regenerated at the nodes but not in the area underneath the myelin sheath. so the presence of insulation reduces the amount of membrane that requires active sodium-potassium pumps. The diameter of the neuron also is related to the speed of conduction.

In other cases.Synapses A synapse is a junction between a neuron and another cell. The action potential causes calcium channels to open in the plasma membrane of the presynaptic cell. If it is hyperpolarized. Excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials A synaptic potential can be excitatory (they depolarize) or inhibitory (they polarize). In some cases there may be enzymes present in the synaptic cleft that break down the neurotransmitter immediately. This process releases neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. The depolarization of the postsynaptic cell is referred to as a synaptic potential. The diagram below shows that a hyperpolarized membrane requires more stimulation to initiate an action potential. acetylcholinesterase breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Some neurotransmitters depolarize and others polarize. Neurotransmitter molecules diffuse across the cleft and stimulate the postsynaptic cell. If it is already partially depolarized. it must be quickly removed or inactivated to prevent the postsynaptic cell from being continuously stimulated and to allow another synaptic potential. The calcium ions (Ca++) diffuse into the neuron and activate enzymes. In most synapses. the axon terminal may reabsorb neurotransmitter and repackage it into vesicles for reuse. promote fusion of the neurotransmitter vesicles with the plasma membrane. which in turn. the axon terminal of the presynaptic cell contains numerous synaptic vesicles with neurotransmitter stored within them. . For example. It is separated by a synaptic cleft. it will require more stimulation than normal to produce an action potential. causing Na+ channels to open and depolarization of the postsynaptic cell. The magnitude of a synaptic potential depends on: the amount of neurotransmitter the electrical state of the postsynaptic cell. an action potential can be produced with less stimulation by neurotransmitters. After the neurotransmitter is released into the synaptic cleft.

hundreds of excitatory potentials may be needed before a postsynaptic cell responds with an action potential. the sum of excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials must be greater than a threshold value. In the brain and spinal cord.There are more than 50 different neurotransmitters. . In order for an action potential to occur. Synaptic integration Synaptic integration is the combining of excitatory and inhibitory signals acting on adjacent membrane regions of a neuron.

This is called temporal summation. This is called spatial summation. . The summation effect is greatest when the time interval between stimuli is very short.Temporal and Spatial Summation The effect of more than one synaptic potential arriving at a neuron is additive if the time span between the stimuli is short. distant areas. The summing effect is greater if multiple stimuli all arrive at nearby areas of a membrane. The effect is less if they stimulate separate. The effect of more than one synaptic potential arriving at a given region of a neuron can also be additive.

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